Scream at your phone to recharge it?

South Korean research looks at recharging phones with the caller's voice and surrounding sounds. Could the science spread and energize the world with our incessant noise?

John Lewinski
Crave freelancer John Scott Lewinski covers tech, cars, and entertainment out of Los Angeles. As a journalist, he's traveled from Daytona Beach to Cape Town, writing for more than 30 national magazines. He's also a very amateur boxer known for his surprising lack of speed and ability to absorb punishment. E-mail John.
John Lewinski
2 min read

Who would have thought the answer to our renewable-energy quandaries might lie in the predominantly pointless nonsense spewing from our collective pie hole?

yelling at phone
Josh Miller/CNET

The Korea IT Times is reporting that "new research promises a way to recharge phones using nothing but the power of voice." A researcher at a South Korean university proposes using the sound of our voices and the cacophony around us to "trickle charge" batteries.

Sang-Woo Kim of the Institute of Nanotechnology at Sungkyunkwan University in Seoul is doing this pioneering work in the field of "scavenged energy." Evidently, the science identifies power sources generated by everyday life--such as the electricity generated by cars passing sound walls near busy freeways.

The technology turns sound into electricity by employing strands of zinc oxide sandwiched between electrodes. "A sound-absorbing pad on top vibrates when sound waves hit it, causing the tiny zinc oxide wires to compress and release," Kim reports. "This movement generates an electrical current that can then be used to charge a battery."

A prototype system was able to convert around 100 decibels--the equivalent of noisy traffic--to 50 millivolts of electricity, The Telegraph reports. The technology could prove useful, for example, if you forgot to charge your phone and could do so just by chatting with a friend on the way to work.

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Of course, Kim worries about an already noisy world growing louder so we can all get an extra jolt out of life. He envisions people shouting louder into their phones (and into people's ears) to keep their phones up and running. Could this lead to an energy race searching for the loudest and most annoying people to keep our batteries charged? Such revolutionary thinking could promote the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Rosie O'Donnell into energy moguls on par with OPEC.

If we could somehow hook up power cells to next year's presidential debates and collect both endless noise and any related hot air, we might not need to ever build another windmill or solar panel. If the noise of a happy, boisterous crowd can be employed to keep the lights on, we could set up mikes and batteries in the booze-lubed amphitheaters of fabulous Las Vegas. But we'll avoid the Charlie Sheen live tour stops to avoid a nationwide blackout. And Carlos Mencia shows are off the menu. Ditto for Dane Cook. We'll work on that.

The imagination overheats ticking off all of the options. I had a girlfriend a few years back who could've kept Seoul lit up like a Kia's high beams. I'll keep an eye out for her, too.